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Neris back from Triple-A with bounce in step

Phillies reliever returns after working on splitter command
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler saw a confident Hector Neris trot to the mound at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night. Earlier that day, the Phillies' manager observed the 29-year-old reliever, back from a one-week demotion to the Minors, "bouncing around the clubhouse."

"You could tell he was really happy to be back and have a fresh start and a new opportunity," Kapler said.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler saw a confident Hector Neris trot to the mound at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night. Earlier that day, the Phillies' manager observed the 29-year-old reliever, back from a one-week demotion to the Minors, "bouncing around the clubhouse."

"You could tell he was really happy to be back and have a fresh start and a new opportunity," Kapler said.

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Of all the visuals Kapler shared during his pregame comments in the dugout Tuesday afternoon, though, the results of Neris' 13-pitch seventh inning -- he faced the minimum and struck out two in the Yankees' 4-2 victory -- was the most welcome sight for the Phillies. Contributions like Neris' on Monday night could go a long way for a bullpen that has struggled in June.

"Look, it's one outing, but it's definitely encouraging," Kapler said. "We've seen him come out at times with a devastating split, but last night he threw two or three that were exceptional.

"There's a lot of confidence and a lot of enthusiasm and some thoughts that things might really work out well here with Hector and for us."

Neris returned from a June 18 demotion earlier than expected because Edubray Ramos (right shoulder impingement) was placed on the 10-day disabled list. The hope was that Neris could clear his head and rediscover the splitter that accounts for more than half of his pitches.

In his first appearance back, Neris threw 13 pitches and seven were splitters. Five produced whiffs. Just one time this season had a higher percentage of his splitters resulted in whiffs, according to Statcast™. On Tuesday night in the Phillies' 6-0 loss, he threw five more splitters for whiffs, two of which struck out Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Neris said Dave Lundquist, the Triple-A Lehigh Valley pitching coach, offered advice that helped him regain command of his most important pitch.

"Back to the ball," Neris said. "Use my hand more, relax a little. Try to do it more fluid. Don't try to ... throw my body. Just work from my mind."

Neris acknowledged that part of his problem this year has been mental. He lost the closer role that Kapler had given him to start the season. After a four-run outing June 17, Neris' ERA reached a bloated 6.00. A mainstay in the Phillies' bullpen the past three years, Neris was suddenly with the IronPigs.

A week in the Minors helped Neris realize where his mind needs to be to regain the form that earned him the closer's job in the first place.

"I come in positive," Neris said. "Like, go do your job no matter what.

"I know I can be here for a long time. I did it before."

Neshek makes rehab appearance
Pat Neshek pitched the eighth inning during a rehab appearance at Double-A Reading on Tuesday night. In 16 pitches, he allowed two hits and one run while striking out one looking.

After throwing a clean inning for High-A Clearwater over the weekend, Neshek who is rehabbing shoulder and elbow injuries, said Monday that he wasn't sure how many more rehab outings he'd need before being activated from the DL. He wanted to be able to find a routine. When that happens, he said, he'd join the Phillies.

Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies, Hector Neris